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Sunderland Power Rankings: Who is the Black Cats' current top young player?

By Michael Graham,


Sunderland have assembled a squad packed full of young players to develop, but who is currently leading the way?

After 36 years of supporting Sunderland, I an finally say a sentence I have never been able to before: Sunderland have absolutely loads of top young talent in their squad.

In fact, aside from Ross Stewart, Corry Evans, Danny Batth and Patrick Roberts, top young talent is pretty much all that Sunderland have.

They are all developing at different times and, as you would expect, with plenty of peaks and troughs. We thought we’d try to keep track of the movers in a month Power Ranking.

We’ll do a top seven, with anyone 24 and under eligible with the exception of Amad Diallo, Joe Gelhardt and Edouard Michut, since Sunderland don’t own them.

So, here are the top seven Sunderland Power rankings for February.

7 - Aji Alese

It’s always a good sign, isn’t it, when fans of the selling club are vocally unhappy to see a player go elsewhere. That was the case for Aji Alese and it’s easy to see why West Ham fans were so disappointed.

Alese has had a mixed season in many ways. He has rarely played in his natural position of centre-back and he has missed a lot of time with injury.

He has still sufficiently impressed to break into the top seven of the Power Rankings though.

6 - Dennis Cirkin

Dennis Cirkin has struggled to stay fit too, which is very frustrating. Some may have Alese ahead of him in their own list, but I don’t personally see it that way.

Cirkin has a season of first-team football under his belt and is the more polished player right now. Certainly, if a buying club were able to pick a Sunderland left-back to sign, they’d plump for Cirkin.

Once he’s back, it’s likely he will get moving up this list.

5 - Jack Clarke

It’s been a bit of a half season of two quarters for Jack Clarke so far, He was electric for the first quarter of the Championship campaign yet very much off the boil for the second.

There are signs that he is starting to find some rhythm again, though. He produced some fine work to help haul Sunderland level against Swansea and scored in the FA Cup tie against Fulham.

He’s frustrating and inconsistent, as most wingers are, but his talent is unquestioned.

4 - Trai Hume

The fact Trai Hume is in the top seven right now is remarkable given where he was six weeks ago, never mind being so high on it. At that time, he was not getting close to a game and looked like a good candidate to go out on loan in January.

Things have changed dramatically since and he is looking like a frankly incredible find right now. The 20-year-old is showing a huge level of sophistication in his game, often even stepping into central midfield on the play to help create overloads.

The way he’s going, he could be the club’s top asset come the summer.

3- Anthony Patterson

It feels like Anthony Patterson has been our best-kept secret for a while, but his performance in the FA Cup at Fulham has definitely turned heads.

He was awarded the Mitre Sport Save of Round award for the double-stop he made in injury time, but in truth it was just a fine performance in general.

Right now, though, there’s no question Patterson is an absolute key player for Sunderland.

2 - Dan Ballard

Sometimes you get a player so good you wonder how it actually happened. That’s how it feels with Dan Ballard at times.

If there is a better central defender in the Championship this season, I certainly haven’t seen him. The former Arsenal man looks like he has everything you need to be a Premier League player.

Since returning from injury, he has clearly shown just how good he is – and how big a miss he was.

1 - Dan Neil

If there was one youngster Sunderland were worried about being the subject of serious Premier League interest in January, it would have been Dan Neil.

Neil has not always excelled this season, and he started it off in quite shaky form, highlighted by his silly red card at Sheffield United.

Since dropping back into the deeper role previously held by Corry Evans, though, Neil has been in quite sensational form and really started to assert his authority on games, including against Premier League opposition. That’s why he tops our February Power Rankings.

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